The human right of free access to public legal information: Proposals for its universal recognition and for adequate public access

Leesi Ebenezer Mitee

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

Abstract: Inadequate access to public legal information is a persistent global problem that denies the right of every person to know the laws that regulate the person's conduct and activities. That denial violates the rule of law and several human rights, including the omnibus right of access to justice, and makes the application of the ignorantia juris non excusat doctrine (where the law is inaccessible and unknowable) a potential instrument of State injustice, etc The problem exists in both developed and developing countries and it has all the existing ancient and modern efforts to solve it. This thesis identifies the lack of political will or government at all levels as the primary cause of the problem and exams the desirability of the use of a universal legal mechanism that can specifically require governments worldwide to provide adequate access to their public legal information, protect the people's right to know the law, and remedy the said injustice in applying the ignorantia juris non excusat doctrine wrongly. This interdisciplinary doctrinal research used the human rights-based approach, new human rights-advocacy approach, and technological tools to examine the different aspects of the problem, with Lon Fuller's theory or legal certainty as its overriding theoretical framework. The major findings of this study are that the existing international legal framework is inadequate for global protection, promotion, and updating the right or free access to public legal information; and the four existing methods of ascertainment or indigenous customary law are neither public access-adequate nor human rights-compliant. Additionally, there is no mechanism for identifying any country's official public information websites, which are presumed to be reliable; and those official public legal information websites exist either in total isolation or they are not properly interconnected, making it difficult for people to find them. The thesis argues that the effective solution to the problem is the formal universal recognition of the right or free access to public legal information as a human right. It goes further to make a comprehensive proposal for that recognition under the framework of a new United Nations Convention on the Right or Free Access to Public Legal Information. The thesis devises the <.officiallaws> strictly regulated generic top-level domain and develops the concept of official networked one-stop legal information websites as the mechanisms for easy identification or official public legal information websites globally and for optimal access to the whole stock of any country's online public legal information, respectively. Further, it formulates the counterbalancing universal defense or 'ignorance of inaccessible law is an excuse' as the direct remedy for injustice from Ignorantia juris non excusat doctrine. It also develops huricompatisation as a new model for ascertainment or indigenous customary law that can ensure adequate access and also comply with the general human rights and indigenous rights. This thesis makes far-reaching recommendations on global access to public legal information and provides law-reform and policy-relevant guidelines that the United Nations, governments, indigenous communities, policymakers, etc. can implement worldwide. Keywords: Human right of free access to public legal information; Ignorance or inaccessible law is an excuse; Official networked one-stop legal information websites; Official public legal information gTLD; Huricompatisation customary law ascertainment; New human rights-advocacy approach; Customary law human rights-based approach Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ernst M.H. Hirsch Ballin, Distinguished University Professor (Tilburg University), President of the Asser Institute for International and European Law at The Hague, and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Prof. Dr. Sofia Ranchordás, Chair of European and Comparative Public Law & Rosalind Franklin Fellow, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. ..................... The Human Right of Free Access to Public Legal Information Advocacy Website: https://publiclegalinformation.com
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Laws
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Hirsch Ballin, Ernst, Promotor
  • Ranchordas, Sofia, Promotor, External person
Award date20 Dec 2019
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Human right of free access to public legal information; Ignorance of inaccessible law is an excuse; Official networked one-stop legal information websites; Official public legal information gTLD; Huricompatisation customary law ascertainment; New human rights-advocacy approach; Customary law human rights-based approach

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